The Journey to Wanderlust
by Wanderlust director Ruby Willmann
In sixth grade, my class and I were assigned to make a token for our school to commemorate our graduation from the safe place of elementary school into the scary and daunting world of junior high. So, as a class, we decided to make stepping stones that would snake through the school’s front garden. We raised money for one bag of wet concrete and we each brought knick-knacks from our houses. We matted the concrete into circular shapes the sizes of our faces, and, as others placed their favorite colored marbles or action figurines into the concrete, I ripped out the pages of an old storybook and carefully pressed the tattered words into my sticky stepping stone. Why? Because at twelve years old, the most personal thing I could offer was my love for storytelling.
Now, twelve years later, as my husband and I prepare to move away from Austin to Los Angeles, I find myself leaving one last token, one last mark. It’s the one thing that has proven to be the only way for me to truly leave a bit of myself behind – a story.
Wanderlust tells the tale of two friends embarking on a journey together. We see this through the lens of a memory which allows us to bend reality because, as many of us know, memories and storytelling go hand in hand. Our emotions color our experiences, our regrets influence our recollections, and we relive our memories through a filter of hopes and wishes and wonder. Wanderlust creates a stage where reality battles perception, and, through it all, our two heroes undergo a shared journey of love, laughter and discovery.
I didn’t expect that while attempting to bring this show to life onstage, I would find myself simultaneously living it out offstage. But before I knew it, Wanderlust had jumpstarted a shared journey between myself and my co-director, Aaron Saenz. Through pitch creations, auditions, casting, countless meetings and rehearsals, every stage of this project tested, amplified and solidified the friendship Aaron and I shared. As we directed a make-believe show centering around a single, fictitious relationship, I found myself discovering, developing and delighting in a single friendship worthy of fiction. This project went from being mine to being ours, and with that, Wanderlust truly came to life.
In truth, solitary storytelling inevitably becomes as hard and stale as the stepping stone I made when I was twelve. In sixth grade I read so many books and wrote so many stories, but I always read and wrote them alone. Today, however, I write them with others, and the light that these stories shine has yet to lead me astray.
I wanted to write this blog before Wanderlust premiered because I wanted to emphasize that this story, while far from finished, has already taken on a life of its own. It is already filled with love. It is already filled with heart. It is already a success. I will always remember this road, and I will always remember I travelled it with friends. Ironically, in my effort to leave a bit of myself behind, I ended up discovering a new part of myself to take with me when I leave.
An incredible thank you to the performing cast and tech of Wanderlust for taking on such an extremely ambitious and vulnerable show. Thank you to the Hideout Theater for placing trust in Aaron and me. And thank you most of all to Aaron for being my steadfast companion through this unforgettable journey.
We would love to see you in the audience of Wanderlust as we bring memories to life every Saturday at 8pm, in January and February at The Hideout Theater.